Hundreds of older people turned down for support under Fair Deal
At least 379 older people have been rejected in the past three years for the Fair Deal scheme which provides financial support for nursing home care, new figures reveal.
Many of the people who are turned down for assistance under the State-subsidised scheme have been regarded as too well-off and therefore ineligible because their income exceeded the cost of care.
The figures, obtained by the Irish Independent from the HSE, show the number of applications is continuing to rise, in a clear signal of the growing demands of the older population.
There were more than 9,757 applications to nursing home assistance under the Fair Deal scheme in 2014, with 94 people turned down. This had risen to 9,996 in 2015, with 168 people rejected. It went up to 10,208 last year when 117 applications were refused. The scheme is currently under review.
While many are rejected due to income, others have found themselves in the same predicament as Kathleen Devereaux (85), who was told she was too healthy for a nursing home.
The refusal was particularly poignant in this elderly woman's case because she was desperate to join her husband Michael (89), who had to be admitted due to his care needs.
Everyone who applies for the scheme has to undergo a care needs assessment to determine how dependent they are, as well as a financial review to determine their income as assets, which will direct how much they should pay.
The HSE said that there were several reasons why people were refused, and they may need other services if their health deteriorates and they have to be admitted to hospital.
The application could be put on hold in that case.
In other cases, applications lapse if the person dies or their families decide not to go ahead with the nursing home option.
In the case of older people such as Mrs Devereaux, the HSE may decide they should continue to live at home and apply for a home help or home care package.
Pat Healy, who is responsible for nursing home care in the HSE, said an examination of its processes was to be undertaken following the Mrs Devereaux case, and it would prompt "shared learning" across the system to see how the various regions operate. This would determine if new guidelines needed to be issued, he added.
A review of the scheme is leading to a comprehensive look at various aspects including assessment and pricing. It is also looking at the controversial top-up out-of-pocket charges which many private nursing homes are now charging residents for social activities, therapies and other services.
When the Nursing Homes Support Scheme started in 2009, a commitment was made that it would be reviewed after three years.
The report of the review was published in July 2015 and it identified a number of key issues.
The need to respond to the variety of care needs of the elderly which have come to the fore is likely to lead to better guidance for people who are at risk of falling outside the acceptance criteria for the scheme at a vulnerable time in their lives. It will also be looked at in the context of the promised statutory home care scheme which will take time to formulate.
The HSE said the expressed wish of older people was to continue living in their own homes for as long as possible. It aims to support people to do this through home supports.